May 28, 1998The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer Transcript
Pakistan responded to India's nuclear tests of two weeks ago by detonating five nuclear devices of its own today. Following a background report, the Pakistani ambassador to the United States defends his country's actions. Also, India's ambassador to the U.S. offers his country's response and National Security Advisor Samuel Berger presents the American reaction. View a timeline of the India-Pakistan conflict.
JIM LEHRER: Now, India's Ambassador to the United States, Naresh Chandra. Mr. Ambassador, welcome. Is India prepared to sit down with Pakistan and avoid a nuclear confrontation?
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
A timeline of the India-Pakistan conflict.
May 28, 1998
The Pakistani ambassador defends his country's actions.
May 28, 1998
Samuel Berger presents the American view.
May 26, 1998
Pakistan gears up nuclear tests of its own.
May 14, 1998
Jim Lehrer asks a Pakistani government official if a nuclear arms race is on the way between his country and India.
May 13, 1998
India conducts a second round of nuclear tests.
May 12, 1998
A discussion on India's decision to test nuclear weapons.
Read what some experts had to say about the recent elections in India.
March 19, 1998:
A discussion on how to reduce nuclear proliferation.
March 4, 1998
The BJP wins elections in India.
January 6, 1998
President Clinton announces a new strategy to deter nuclear war.
December 4, 1997
Two retired generals call for an immediate reduction of nuclear arms.
August 17, 1997
Pakistan turns 50.
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of the military and Asia.
The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Organization .
Restarting talks with Pakistan.
AMB. NARESH CHANDRA, Ambassador, India: That offer was made by the prime minister in his speech that he's ready to sit down and start the talks going. In fact, the framework for a dialogue between India and Pakistan already exists. We have talks going at foreign secretary level, and we have not covered any issue or difference of opinion. It has got interrupted for some months now, but there is no reason why it can't be restarted.
JIM LEHRER: Do you agree with the ambassador that the problem between your country and his is a matter of trust?
AMB. CHANDRA: It is, because we feel that we find it quite amazing that our neighbor entertains this feeling, because I have been in many states. I have served in Kashmir. I have been to Islamabad at least four times. And I can assure you that as far as the people-to-people thing is concerned, there is a lot of goodwill, and we can capitalize on that. The hype that has recently been given that we are going to attack Pakistan or that our program is directed against Pakistan is not correct. India has borders with many countries, and we cannot accept the doctrine that the total defense arrangements that India has to make has to be capped by some kind of a ceiling, which is a function of the mood or sensitivities of Pakistan. Indian government has to make provision for nearly a billion people. We have live borders -- border disputes. We have a declared nuclear weapon power to our North. We can't allow asymmetry to develop, which was developing-
JIM LEHRER: That's China. Yes.
The China-Pakistan threat.
AMB. CHANDRA: Yes, sir. Now -- China and Pakistan together -- if they have any kind of military cooperation, which extends into such sensitive areas as missile development and nuclear devices, then it is something which cannot be allowed to persist. I would just take one minute to mention about the risk.
JIM LEHRER: Sure.
AMB. CHANDRA: Just see the known facts. We do a test in 1974. But reports which today exist shows that the clandestine nuclear program in Pakistan started in 1972. Then we take ours again after 24 years. We take five quick steps, and then we declare a moratorium. If this is the definition of a race, then I don't know what the slow march is. But our intention is not to carry on a nuclear arms race. We never invited anybody to join the race. Our arrangements are specific to our own security and addressing the apprehensions of nearly a billion people, and that's all that we are trying to do.
JIM LEHRER: You do not have any understanding as to why Pakistan -- as just expressed by the ambassador -- would feel threatened by these tests that you conducted?
AMB. CHANDRA: It's a lack of confidence and trust. The point is the manner in which the two countries were created are based on the assumption that two great communities of the subcontinent cannot live together. We are through our secular development trying to demonstrate that in a democratic fashion the Hindus of India and Muslims, Christians, and that those all can live together, and that is our intention. In such a situation to assume that we mean harm to Pakistan is wrong. The bedrock of our foreign policy is to have the best of relations with China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, because no wise government would try to play at a zero sum game for a long time. We are not unwise people. We know that our future lies in cooperation with our neighbors, in concentrating on economic development, and getting on with the job of increasing the level of living of our people. We don't want to get into an arms race.
JIM LEHRER: Well, let's take it the next step. Your country exploded five nuclear devices. Pakistan today exploded five nuclear devices. What is India going to do next? Does India feel that you must do something to-
AMB. CHANDRA: We have declared a moratorium, sir, and we have offered talks. We have offered a step, which will take us to take on all the substantive undertakings of the comprehensive test ban treaty. We will offer that we'll work with the nuclear weapons states and United States to ensure that the fissile material cutoff treaty is brought to a satisfactory conclusion. As far as we are concerned, we can easily reach a position where we are with test ban and then we are with fissile material cutoff arrangements. And that's, I think, an advance and something which needs to be pursued in the dialogue.
JIM LEHRER: In simple terms do you feel -- do the Indians feel threatened by what Pakistan did today?
"Tests never kills anybody. It's weapons which kill."
AMB. CHANDRA: It's like this. I don't think there is a qualitative difference. What is more material or weapons. Tests never kills anybody. It's weapons which kill. And if somebody who can be a potential threat in the future has weapons, that's it, you have to take note of it. As I have occasion to explain, the fact that people are friends-are living together-is no reason not to be armed. If that doctrine was accepted, the countries of Europe, why do they need arms? What is the threat to France? What is the threat to Spain or the United Kingdom today? But if you compare their level of defense preparedness with ours, we are nowhere. We spend the least amount of money in percentage terms of our GDP on defense, much less than Pakistan, much less than China. We spent in one year what the United States spends every two weeks. Our budget is very small compared to all sides.
JIM LEHRER: So, the rest of the world-and that would include Pakistan, I guess-but the rest of the world should not look upon this-you do some tests, they do some tests-there's a lot of rhetoric back and forth-should not see this as some kind of a crisis, some kind of-
AMB. CHANDRA: That anticipation we did not have. We are realists. We know that initially a reaction would take place, but we are convinced that our correcting an asymmetry and having a balance in this year in the long term, is in the long-term interest of everybody. We are also convinced that what we have done is consistent with the long-term security interests of the United States initiative. If we had allowed substantial gaps to persist here -- it was a recipe for future disaster sometime down the road. That was our feeling. And we thought we should pay the insurance premium now to avoid the accident in the future.
JIM LEHRER: Finally, do you agree with your Pakistani counterpart that the United States has a major role to play now probably in getting your folks and their folks together to try to avoid an nuclear confrontation?
AMB. CHANDRA: We support the policy of United States and other friendly countries, that they may be supportive, but anything by way of excessive interest, which smacks of either intervention or introducing a third element in a situation can be settled bilaterally might be counterproductive. What we are seeing is that the countries of the region should be encouraged to cooperate with each other. There is a framework for settling disputes in a bilateral fashion. Today is not the time to do third party intervention and things like that. That will only complicate matters.
JIM LEHRER: All right. Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much.
AMB. CHANDRA: Thank you.